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Former House GOP leader Christine Drazan joins race for Oregon governor

Drazan vowed to help clean up Portland and support police while also keeping kids in classrooms and cutting taxes on small businesses and families.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Rep. Christine Drazan, former Republican leader of the Oregon House of Representatives, has officially joined the race for state governor.

Drazan was first elected to represent House District 39 in Clackamas County in 2018. She was selected as minority leader the following year but stepped down from that role in November. 

If elected, she would be the Oregon's first Republican governor in more than three decades.

“I looked at the Democratic candidates. I looked at the Democrats, the ultra-liberal, the so-called moderate, the carpetbagger from New York, and I knew, like all of you know, that Oregon cannot survive another four years of this," Drazan said during her announcement speech Tuesday.

Drazan offered a middle-of-the-road message Tuesday, saying she would help clean up Portland and support police to get tough on crime while also keeping kids in classrooms and cutting taxes on small businesses and families.

Until now, a Republican winning the Oregon governor’s race would be considered wishful thinking by most political insiders. But this year is different, according to Len Bergstein, president of Northwest Strategies, a political consulting firm.

“People are very frustrated. Voters generally are very unhappy with their situation. Unhappy with the direction of the state, unhappy with leadership and they attribute that to Democratic flaws and failings," Bergstein said. "And they’re looking to maybe take it out on somebody and bring somebody new into the race. The question is whether Christine Drazan can get through her own primary.”

Oregon’s closed primary system means only registered Republicans and registered Democrats can vote in their respective primaries. Political observers like Bergstein say the system tends to only bring out voters who are highly motivated and often more far-left or far-right than the general public.

Another factor that could benefit Republicans this year is the possibility that Oregon could see a three-way race for governor in the general election that would include a Democrat, an unaffiliated moderate and a Republican. 

The unaffiliated candidate, Betsy Johnson, quit the state legislature in mid-December after 20 years as a Democratic lawmaker. If she gains a serious number of votes, the Republican candidate could win with far less than 51% of the vote.

Several other high-profile Republicans are already in the race, including Salem physician Bud Pierce, political consultant Bridget Barton and the mayor of Sandy, Stan Pulliam.

Drazan and her husband Dan live in rural Clackamas County between Canby and Oregon City with their three children, according to her website. She said she enjoys traveling, hiking, camping and spending time with her family on Oregon's rivers, beaches and state and national parks.

Have a comment or story idea for Pat Dooris? Email him at pdooris@kgw.com